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David Pick | Nr. 52

Vom Sinn und Unsinn von Nachverpflichtungen | David Pick über Spieler, die während der Saison geholt wurden und wie diese sich bei ihren EuroLeague-Klubs machten

In wake of Maccabi Tel Aviv firing head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos and looming rumors of Baskonia Vitoria soon letting go of Neven Spahija, I decided to change course on my blog post for BIG Magazine to something totally different than planned.

In the summertime, Euroleague coaches are handed generous budgets to assemble their squads for the upcoming season. Each season we see returning Euroleague players that bounce around from team to team, NBA dropouts head overseas, and others making the jump from lower level clubs to the Euroleague. This doesn’t always work out. Kendrick Ray was a star in the BCL and the MVP for Nymburk, but his 3-years contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv was basically over in three months, and he never sniffed the Euroleague again.

Coaches receive a supermarket list of available players. The bank of potential recruits are in the hundreds if not thousands of players. It becomes overwhelming, tiring, and a rigorous process to watch countless film, talk to multiple agents, insiders, and execute a decision to sign a player.

But what happens once the deal is signed? In the end, everyone hopes for the best. Coaches believe that players can live up to the hype and expectations, fit into the system, adapt to the culture, adjust to the city and lifestyle, and most importantly - PRODUCE on the hardwood and win games. However it doesn't always go that way, for whatever reason, for many reasons. Sometimes it's nobody's real fault because injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. E.g. Cory Higgins, Nando De Colo, Anthony Randolph etc - injuries suck. Other times, coaches will discover inability to coach or communicate with a player (Dimitris Itoudis and Mike James).

Once a decision is made to sign a player, and shortly thereafter a player gets cut, or released; and said club hits the market for a recruit, things don't always work out smoothly. Players are people, skilled and athletic talents, but they don’t possess special powers or inhuman abilities such as Harry Potter or Jesus. Not all of them have the capabilities to save an organization. You can’t always plug a player into a situation and expect miraculous results. More times than not, it won’t work. Coaches for the most part take the blame for the team’s failures.

I'm going to evaluate the midseason signings in the Euroleague and we will dive into the numbers and check if the moves made sense and how decision making affects clubs and coaches. There's a saying I believe in and I'll share it with you: "He made his bed. Let him sleep in it."

DANTE EXUM / CORY HIGGINS / NICK CALATHES - BARCELONA

When Barcelona lost both Nick Calathes and Cory Higgins to injuries, one of the greatest PG-SG combinations in Europe was instantly gone. Everyone in Catalonia was losing sleep. It was impossible to find complementary players to either of them. Sarunas Jasikevicius knew the Euro-market wasn't attractive, so he brought in Australian Dante Exum on a short-term deal (soon to be extended for the remainder of the season). Exum is a big name, a former 5th overall NBA Draft pick, and Barcelonas 3rd Aussie after Joe Ingles and Nate Jawai.

But from a contribution perspective, he doesn't make sense at all. Over Exum's 8.5 NBA seasons with Utah, Cleveland and Houston he never scored over 6 PPG. Guess what his ACB and Euroleague scoring numbers are?! 6 PPG. Exum has taken only 2 3P shots in the Spanish League and 13 over 11 games in the Euroleague, while Higgins put him 13 3P over his six first games alone. Therefore it's safe to say the Exum isn't a scoring guard, nor was he brought in for Cory.

Well, how about Calathes? Sorry, but I don't see any floor general skills in Exum either. 0.7APG in the ACB and 1 APG in the Euroleague vs Calathes' 5.3 APG in the Euroleague. You read that right: Calathes averaged not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE times the amount of dimes per game than Exum. Safe to say buddy isn't a PG either.

Barcelona currently look down on the Euroleague standings from the No.1 seed, but it has nothing to do with Exum, rather thanks to the looming MVP Nikola Mirotic.


MIKE JAMES / PARIS LEE - MONACO

Paris Lee is a solid little point guard, but his signing to AS Monaco raised a lot of eyebrows. It wasn't long after the season started that fired coach Zvezdan Mitrovic realized he needed more - much more - to contend for the playoffs. The answer was Mike James. Released from CSKA and following some impressive NBA games with the Brooklyn Nets, James took over the PG position. Lee's 7 PPG and 2.4 APG aren't at all bad, but it's literally half the contribution they get from their superstar, who delivers 15.7 PPG alongside 5.8 APG.

KENDRICK PERRY / STEFAN JOVIC - PANATHINAIKOS

Kendrick Perry played his entire career for low-mid level teams, so his jump from Cedevia Ljubljana to Panathinaikos came as a surprise. His departure in early February however, was not. Perry logged 4.8 PPG and 1.6 APG over 20 Euroleague, half of his current EuroCup averages since joining Buducnost (9 PPG & 3.5 APG), which seems to be his go-to level. Does that mean Perry is a bad player? Not at all. But similar to Mitrovic choosing Lee and Sfairopoulos favoring Kyri Thomas over Tyrus McGee to Maccabi Tel Aviv (more on this below), recruiting mistakes can cause coaches to lose the locker rooms and get them fired.

Stefan Jovic, I believe, was another bad move by Pao. The Serbian PG was phenomenal at Red Star Belgrade, and solid with Bayern Munich, but he continues to suffer from injuries. Jovic played a total of 11 games with Khimki Moscow last season, his last on February 12th, roughly a one year ago. He's in no sort of game shape, his back aches and pains are still suspicious, he never had a 3P shot, and his age isn't getting younger.

LAMAR PETERS - BASKONIA

I'm a fan of Lamar Peters. I think he's a really good PG. He tore up the EuroCup last season with 18.7PPG and 7.3APG. in Turkey he logged 6.6 dimes per game. He chose to sign late, and sat out until he got the call from the Euroleague. He got it. Baskonia called. In essence, a really good club, and a good situation. But Peters has a problem with his game. He can't shoot. Not just from the field goal area, but the FT line too. Spain is a different animal than Europe. The level of basketball intelligence, talent and physicality are unmatched. Peters struggled with that, logging just 2.7 PPG and 1.9 APG on 10% 3s (2-19) in the ACB and 4.7 PPG on 27% 3P (11-40) and 30% FT (3-10) in Euroleague. Not every good guard is a Euroleague guard. We saw this with Peters, Perry, Lee etc. Oh, Baskonia cut Peters.


ELIJAH BRYANT - ANADOLU EFES

It didn't make sense to me why Anadolu Efes landed Bryant other than having the financial abilities to pull off the move that seemed pointless at the time and proves to be pointless four months later. I'm not going to argue that Anadolu have been a shadow of themselves most of the season, but let's not forget these are the reigning Euroleague champions, and I'm not betting against their backcourt in any game. Micic, Larkin, Beaubois, Simon ... yeap - they get my vote every game.

Bryant is an awesome player and master of the “Eurostep” move, but he's useless for Anadolu. Of his 15 total Euroleague games this season, he scored 2 or fewer points in 10 games (!). That's a ridiculous stat for a scoring guard, because he isn't passing either. To put it in words to show how wild this stat is, last season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he never finished a game with under 4 points. Bryant isn't some flop, he's an NBA champion. But this goes to show how even great players often come in midseason and can't make an impact on an already moving train.

TYRUS MCGEE / KYHRI THOMAS / ALLERIK FREEMAN / MARKEL STARKS / TREY KELL

Ettore Messina called me not long ago to sign Tyrus McGee. The Italian tactician knows him well. McGee is an established guard in Italy. He won the Championship with Reyer Venice, went to the Serie A Finals with Dinamo Sassari and won the FIBA Europe Cup with the Sardinia club. At the time, Milano was suffering from injuries to Rodriguez and Shields, while McGee was leaving Spanish side San Pablo Burgos. Milano made the offer, the buyout was agreed upon, and everything was in place to put pen to paper. However, the Italian federation ruled that McGee's EU (European Union) status through marriage to his Romanian wife was invalid for Italy. The deal died and Milano picked up Trey Kell from the worst team in the league in Pesaro, but also a player that wouldn't cost Milan their last visa.

Maccabi, Fenerbahce and CSKA are other teams that engaged in serious talks to sign McGee. Sfairopoulos and Itoudis jumped on a lengthy phone call with McGee's former coach at Hapoel Holon, Stefanos Dedas. Will Clyburn, who went to Iowa State with McGee, encouraged Itoudis to sign Tyrus. Maurizio Gherardini, Fenerbahce's Italian GM, was very high on McGee after receiving great feedback from his former Sassari teammates, Achille Polonara and Dyshawn Pierre, and urged his coaches to bring in the free-agent. However, Maccabi opted to sign an injured Khyri Thomas with just one European game under his belt (Oh, Sfairopoulos has since been fired). Itoudis wanted "Euroleague experience" and inked Allerik Freeman, who once left ASVEL during the season. Fener brought in Markel Starks from the Adriatic League. McGee has three championships (Serie A, FIBA Europe Cup, Balkan League) in four finals appearances in his career. Freeman-Thomas-Starks have never been in a finals game in their careers.

Other midseason walk ons in the Euroleague that haven't left a mark on their teams include:

John Holland - UNICS Kazan (hasn't played an official game yet).

Zoran Dragic - Zalgiris Kaunas (cut by Baskonia. Left Zalgiris Kaunas after he couldn't find his role).

Tyson Carter - Zenit St Petersburg (left BCL Greek club Lavrio, averaging 17.8PPG shooting 48% from deep. Now posting just 1PPG on a total 1-8 FG over four games in the Euroleague).

KC Rivers - Bayern Munich (inked a short-term deal to cover for injured forward Vladimir Lucic. Was released upon expiration of contract).



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